Mysterious Spot On Ambergris Caye: Abandoned Wedding Chapel and a Giant Whale Too? Essene Way
Located about 3.5 miles north of the bridge, sandwiched between Captain Morgan's Resort & Casino to the south and Coco Beach to the north, is Essene Way. A large property right on the beach that has been closed for quite a while, I took a walk around this place yesterday and found it very very intriguing.
It has a wedding chapel, biblical references, angel and eagle statuary, large empty pools, a huge cement whale, a crumbling dock, a cracked basketball court and overgrown trees and bushes. There appear to be quite a few people living on the property.
Open as early as the 80s, this property was called The Belizean Hotel. The luxury hotel was built and run by a French family, the Pierres, (possibly the heirs to the company that produces Perrier water) but sold when a family member passed (or it went bust...there are a few accounts). Apparently they were well known for lavish parties and entertaining.
According to Belizefirst.com, the facility was then purchased in 1993, was renovated for $7 million USD and then opened in 1997 by developer, biblical scholar and food supplement entrepreneur Tom Ciola (owner of "Hot Stuff" supplements) to offer free vacations to terminally ill adults. Mr. Ciola entered into a $2 million USD contract with an American company for complete solar energy. There was also a reverse osmosis water treatment system in place. When the resort opened, Ciola stated that they didn't have enough funds yet to make the property 100% humanitarian but that was the end goal. (Rates at the time were quoted as $125 USD a night).
Paul Ciola, the owner's son, operated a pizza restaurant and delivery service on the property before the Hurricane Keith. A few years later, he returned and opened another pizza joint in town. It was called Pauly's Pizza. (There is a full article on the operation in this 2005 San Pedro Sun. I like Pauly's money back guarantee on pizza. Pedro's take note). Caliente, a very popular Mexican food place, also used to have an outpost as "Caliente North" at Essene Way.
I find all of this fascinating...almost too interesting to be true. And the actual property just as interesting. Anyone who has been here longer than me (6 years now), probably knows lots about this mystery development. Any and all information or speculation on this property would be appreciated. Now I'm hooked.
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